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Anjana Jegatheesan, a master student in Space Science and Technology of the Luleå University of Technology in Sweden, has been staying with us for a while now to work on improving our Aouda spacesuit simulator. Her newest blog will give you an impression of what she has been up to so far and how she is enjoying Innsbruck.
How did you get involved with OeWF?
Some of my colleagues from university introduced me to Lunar and Mars Analog missions and planetary research being conducted at NASA and while researching such missions in Europe, it came to my notice that the OeWF is the only organization here conducting such exciting research! I instantly wanted to get involved and since I was in the phase of doing my master thesis at the time, I applied and got selected to work on the design of their Aouda.X spacesuit simulator.
What will you be working on?
The main design complication of the Aouda.X is its overall weight. The system weighs 48kg, of which nearly 57% is comprised of the suit’s HUT (Hard upper Torso), PLSS (Portable Life Support System) and OBDH (On board data handling). In addition to this, the current configuration requires 3 hours of assisted donning/doffing with the AA (Analog Astronaut) wearing the exoskeleton. This load on the suit is a paramount deterrent to the efficiency of the AA during simulated EVA’s (Extra vehicular activity), as they are subjected to a strenuous amount of physical activities in a challenging environment during analog missions. In order to improve the ergonomics of the design, a relatively lighter HUT/PLSS design with efficient donning capabilities such as ‘self-donning’ must be developed. This will potentially relieve the AA of exhaustion and save time while donning/doffing.
This is where my research comes into play. Based on a detailed literature research investigating past, present and proposed EMU (Extravehicular mobility unit) / planetary suits (primarily American and Russian Suits), an optimal solution to address this problem was by implementing a Rear Entry design to the Aouda.X. This concept is akin to designs used by the Russian Orlan suits for EVA. By this concept, the AA can easily climb in and out of the suit independently. This design is also a good candidate to be used with the concept of a Suitport / Suitlock – an alternative technology to an airlock especially for planetary surface exploration where the astronaut can easily don the suit from the habitat / rover.
My work involves designing this rear entry for the current HUT/PLSS configuration of Aouda.X, while meeting certain qualitative anthropometric design requirements, performance envelopes and carrying out trade-off studies. A lot of questions arise while making preliminary sketches such as how tilted should the entry be for easy donning and doffing? Where can the drinking bag and harness be positioned in the HUT? Where can the hatch lock be placed so that the AA can reach it easily? Will the AA be able to bend down and comfortably rotate his arms? How can the PLSS components be rearranged to fit the HUT rear entry? How will the entry affect the helmet design and lower torso assembly? What hinges can be used open / close the entry? A qualitative resource pool consisting of analog astronauts and spacesuit designers will be established for developing user stories required while designing.
The final product deliverable of the project will be a 3D CAD (Computer aided design) model of the proposed Rear entry design, conforming to the stakeholder’s requirements of the HUT/PLSS. Multiple iterations of the design will be conducted by performing FEA (Finite element analysis) on the model to verify its structural integrity such as loading and stresses apparent on the HUT/PLSS. A down scaled, high fidelity, 3D printed HUT prototype will be produced later based on this model, that meets and demonstrates functional requirements such as featuring a back hatch with a self-sealing / locking mechanism in addition to accommodating PLSS components, cable pathways and interfaces.
It is really interesting working with the spacesuit because every day I learn something new about human spaceflight and Mars exploration and the challenges associated with it and how I can contribute to solve these intricate problems. It’s also quite fun working with my co-interns, Sophie and Max who are always engaging me in amusing (and quite humorous!) sci-fi discussions. Considering the exciting analog missions that OeWF conducts, I am also taking part in their analog mission trainings for the upcoming AMADEE-18 mission in Oman. I am thrilled to be a part of the team and looking forward to the experiments that will be conducted!
Highlights of living in Innsbruck:
The location is just splendid as the city is centred at the heart of the Alps. Every day, I enjoy the breathtaking view of the mountains and bike along the river banks and greenery. Simply taking in the crisp Alpine air and natural beauty along with the medieval ambience the city provides is positively heart-warming!
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